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Surin Islands Diving Guide

The Best Hard Coral Reefs in Thailand?

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...Good for: Reef life and health, snorkelling, small animals and beginner divers
Not so good for: Wrecks...

The dense and extensive reefs of the Surin Islands have the greatest hard coral diversity in Thailand. Though the soft corals and fish diversity are not as good as some of the other Andaman Sea destinations, you will find lots of turtles here and fish species that you won't see in the Similans, such as Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, barramundi cod, yellow-mask angelfish and tomato anemonefish.

Koh Surin is the only place in Thailand where you can still find bumphead parrotfish - photo courtesy of ScubaZoo

Not many liveaboard dive cruises visit these islands, not because the scuba diving in Surin is inferior to other Thai destinations, but rather due to the greater geographic remoteness and the short 4 day schedules of popular scuba safaris - not enough time to take in both the Similan and the Surin Islands. This means that when you do visit here, you'll find there's still a beautiful corner of Thailand that you can enjoy without sharing it with hordes of other tourists.

Located 7 km south of the Burmese border and 68 km north of the Similans, this island group was designated a national marine park in 1981 and is made up of 2 main islands - named Koh Surin Nua (North) and Koh Surin Tai (South) - plus 3 smaller islets and 2 rocky outcrops. The islands are uninhabited except for the national park camp and a traditional Mokken sea gypsy village (the same group that roam the Burma Mergui Archipelago). The world famous dive site of Richelieu Rock lies 15 km further to the east.

Along the east coast of Koh Torinla a hard coral plateau breaks the water's surface at low tide. Large fields of staghorn corals and massive porites corals dominate the shallows. Cardinalfish, humpnose bigeye bream, twin-spot and 5-lined snappers proliferate. Just off the island's coast lies a 120 metre long rocky ridge that acts as a magnet for Surin’s marine life. Pinnate batfish, barramundi, schools of bumphead parrotfish, blue-lined and pickhandle barracuda are common on the deeper east side that drops to 31 metres, and Spanish mackerel and grey reef sharks often pay fleeting visits to this island. White tip reef sharks frequently rest on the surrounding sands or can be spotted cruising the ridge top at 7 to 25 metres.
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Diving Season in Surin

Mid October to early May is the Surin Islands liveaboard season. It can be too wet and windy outside of these months for dive boats to venture there. December to April is the best time for a visit.

The Surin area has a reputation for being a good place to spot large creatures like manta rays, eagle rays and even whale sharks. This is particularly the case for the period of February to April. Currents can kick up in this region during the November to January period which can mean great schooling action for fish such as trevallies, barracuda and fusiliers.

Warmer water temperatures are present during the dry season of November to April, peaking at 31°C. In the rainy season months from May to October, the water temperature dips but seldom if ever goes below 27°C. The best visibility at the Surin Islands also occurs in dry season, reaching up to 30m.

Reef Basics

Map of the Similan and Surin Islands (click to enlarge in a new window)

Depth: 5 - >30m
Visibility: 5 - 20m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface Conditions: Calm
Water Temperature: 26 - 29°C
Experience Level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: >10
Distance: ~205 km north northwest of Phuket (10 hours)
Access: Similan liveaboards from Phuket
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 6 days as part of a Thailand liveaboard cruise

Dive The World Thailand Recommendations: Koh Torinla and South East Point.


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